Paradise Kiss Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98/??.??
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Paradise Kiss

Paradise Kiss Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     December 18, 2006
Release Date: December 19, 2006


Paradise Kiss Vol. #1
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Yukari, a beautiful high school student, is studying for her college entrance exam. Her entire life is based on the education formula, which means the most important objectives are to get good test scores and get into a good college. As a result, she has been stressed out by trying so hard to please her parents. One day, she runs into some Yazawa School of Design students who are part of a group called ?Paradise Kiss?, and her life begins to change? They want Yukari to model their creations in the annual School fashion show! At first, she is hesitant about doing anything other than studying, but as Yukari is influenced by the unique members of "Paradise Kiss", she begins to notice that there is more to life than schoolwork.

Featuring opening theme by Tommy February6 & closing theme by Franz Ferdinand

The Review!
As Yukari's high school life is getting close to ending, the path her parents have put her on suddenly becomes scary as a whole new world opens up for her.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Both languages are done in just a stereo mix which isn't much of a problem for the show since it is generally just a dialogue piece with music. The music though, from the incidental to the closing song, really needed to be done in something a bit cleaner and more dynamic. The Japanese track is solid throughout though with plenty of directionality for the dialogue as well as background sounds. The car in particular comes across really well here when it's kicking in. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The folks at Madhouse were brought in to animate this show and their style meshes really well with the original look of the manga. Not uncommon, a lot of backgrounds are colored photographs that give the show a slightly different feel and it's well represented here. Colors look good, black levels are nice and deep and the show is free of problems such as cross coloration and aliasing. Where the problem lays here, and it's not truly a problem, is that the animation was done in such a way to give it a very grainy feel. The reproduction of that here is accurate to what I've seen on the Japanese release earlier in the year. The transfer for this is likely to get a lot of criticism but it is to my knowledge doing an accurate representation of the source material as best as it can under the limitations of DVD. I can see this being done in HD with a higher bitrate and retaining even more of a film-like feel and not quite so alive as it seems here.

Packaging:
Taking a lot of cues from the Japanese limited edition box release, the US release mirrors it closely. The cover art for the keepcase has the attractive shot of George and Yukari coming close to an embrace with the very heavy blue filter on it. The border and backgrounds are all made up of the blue colored roses and petals as well as the butterfly which just makes it all the more dreamy in a way. The expressions of the characters alone really sets this up nicely and conveys so much. The back cover keeps to the fashion oriented theme and a simple but effective layout. The opening and closing songs are given prominence and there's a good layout of the discs features alongside the summary and a few shots from the show. It's a bit minimal in some ways with a bit more open space than usual around the production credits and technical information. Sadly, it doesn't have the grid but is still fairly easy at figuring out when combined with the features section. The cover is reversible with another of the Japanese covers while the backside mirrors the main one. The insert has another shot of the front cover while the reverse side lists the episodes on this volume, the general release plans for future volumes and a rather good ad from TOKYOPOP for the manga for the series.

The first volume also has a box + disc edition which is rather nice. The box is similar to the Japanese one with the heavy blues and silvers with artwork that avoids using the characters. It's filled with the flowers and petals in the various shades along with the blue butterfly underneath the logo that's on the center of each main panel. The spine has just the series name itself and looks pretty good if a bit understated. Inside the box is a plastic case that includes two illustration cards that Ai Yazawa did for the home video release that are actually rose scented. The only thing I believe missing between this and the Japanese release is the blue rose made of fabric, but that's not too surprising.

Menu:
The menu design keeps to the blue roses and petal theme with a deep border of them that glisten with lights moving over it. Through the center a brief selection of clips from the show plays set to some upbeat instrumental music that sets the mood nicely. Navigation is quick and easy with a direct episode access design and menus load quickly while moving about. The disc unfortunately doesn't read our player presets and defaults to English language with sign/song subtitles. Though the menu isn't anything that's terribly amazing, it is a solid piece that looks good and fits well with the show.

Extras:
The first volume brings over a number of extras from the Japanese release that show some of the anticipation around this project. The first is a photo shoot piece with the voice actress for Yukari that deals with her talking about the role and her first experiences with voice over work. The next extra is the press conference that was done about a week before the series aired that had a number of the creative staff. With this being a fashion series, the people involved either dressed up a bit for it or they're just as varied in their look as the folks involved on the English language adaptation side of things. A series of TV commercials for the release is included as is a set of conceptual artwork for the character designs. Breaking trend, a DVD-ROM extra is also included that has a manga preview from TOKYOPOP.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Paradise Kiss was the manga that for me changed how my anime viewing was done. While for years and years we were lucky if a manga release came out after the anime arrived here, or the off chance that an older manga got picked up as an anime production eventually, there weren't a lot of books that crossed over to the anime side. Most of those tended to be for properties that just didn't sell well. Paradise Kiss; manga was several years before the anime made and the anime was only made due to the heightened popular of Ai Yazawa in her Nana run.

That doesn't diminish Paradise Kiss in the slightest though as it's a very different series and one that was quite popular in Japan. The manga ran in Zipper magazine, something of a rarity I believe, and had quite the following. With its focus on fashion and a coming of age story, Ai Yazawa was able to draw a number of elements from previous works into it along with an amusing focal point of the Yazawa Design School.

The series if focused around eighteen year old Yukari, a young woman who is studying hard for her entrance exams and getting ready for that next stage in her life. She's an attractive person but she doesn't give off a friendly vibe to many around her which gives her something of a cool aura and not all that many friends. Add in the pressures of the final year of high school and all the studying that's entailed and she doesn't have much of a life. School, cram school, studying, sleep. With her mother pushing her on with high expectations, the only thing in her life that gives her something of a fantasy is a classmate that she's attracted to.

Her life takes a detour one afternoon when a strange looking blond man with piercings stops her in the street. He's taken by her look and just starts talking her up and before she knows it the excitement of the situation that's out of the ordinary has her falling unconscious. When she awakens, she learns that one of his friends helped him carry her to the below ground former bar. As it turns out, the blond man is named Arashi and he's a fashion design student who is also in a band. He and a small group of others from the Yazawa Design School formed a club to work together called ParaKiss that operates out of the place. In addition to Arashi, the group is made up of a very child-like girl named Miwako, a more mature woman named Isabella and one truly gifted person named George.

Though his personality throws her at first, something about George has Yukari all confused inside and she can't stop thinking about him. His offer to her to be their model for an upcoming project they have only add to the situation. She's apparently the perfect build and look for what they want to do and they don't want to let her get away. Before she knows it, she's trying to deal with these feelings and George's very different personality while realizing what her own heart is saying about her life. Yukari's life has been fairly sheltered in a lot of ways while the driving pressure has been her parents in getting her the education that they want her to have. Once she becomes involved with the people at ParaKiss, a whole new world that she hadn't even thought of before comes into view.

Each of those in the ParaKiss studio are quite different than the usual students she's familiar with. Arashi is just completely "unique" in his own way with how he adorns himself, things that wouldn't fly at a lower school level. Miwako, who is Arashi's girlfriend, plays up the cute little girl angle to some extent but a lot of it just comes naturally to her. She's part of a family that has a famous designer in it who makes a brief appearance in this volume and explains a lot of the way Miwako is. Isabella is the most mysterious in these early episodes, and from what I recall received the least attention in the manga, but she provides something of a quiet maturity and serenity to the group. The one that gets the most focus of course is George. Right from the start he's something different, with his lanky look and short hair. He's a confident type who has tired of the indecisive and those who don't know what they really want. His sense of fashion is contrary to the norm in a lot of ways, which shows in his cowboy hat that he manages to pull off quite well.

The visual style of the series is one that wasn't a surprise to me in that it had to try and look different from most other shows just because of how the manga was. A lot of its design came from the clothes and the framing of the artwork so here they make some strong work with the character designs in terms of clothing. With the character designs adapted by Nobuteru Yuki, a favorite of mine from Heat Guy J and the Escaflowne movie, he gives them a great sense of presence with their lankiness in how they move across the screen. The show also uses something that Madhouse tends to do a bit more often in their "real world" series by using photographs for the backgrounds and messing with them a bit to fit into the animation style. This works out really well for this show since it adds a bit more of the world to it and allows the characters to fit in more.

One area where this photographic style works well is with George's car. The Jaguar really looks good when done with this method and when the audio kicks in as the car roars along it just made me smile. Another audio moment that's really good here is the opening and closing sequences. The closing was something of a mystery for awhile in whether they could get the rights to the Franz Ferdinand song but they did and it really makes the way each episode closes out just perfect. This is also true of the opening sequence song by Tommy february6 as that just gets you primed for the show. These pieces just perfectly bookend each episode.

In Summary:
Paradise Kiss was a title in its manga form that took my enjoyment of manga and made it a real passion. It brought more of a genre to me that was rarely seen here in either manga or anime form. It's adaptation, though certainly not frame by frame, is one that I definitely enjoyed in its first four episodes and look forward to seeing more. The visual look of the show and its pacing in general is a bit unusual in comparison to other shows but it's something that I find appealing in a sea of shows that tend to start blending together. Paradise Kiss in its original form is something that I'm very fond of and this anime adaptation so far doesn't stray too far from it or change it all that much while proving to be fun and amusing.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Photo Shoot with Yu Yamada,Press Conference,TV Commercials,Character Conceptual Artwork,TOKYOPOP Manga Preview (DVD-ROM)

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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